Would You Rather Play a Game or Listen to a DevOps Lecture?

DevOps Simulation Training Feb 2018By Dick Stark

What would you rather do, listen to a lecture on DevOps or play a game? The answer was obvious last week at RightStar’s half day DevOps simulation / gaming session in Washington, DC to a sold-out crowd of 25 attendees. This role based simulation is highly realistic and leverages game dynamics to provide a vision of successful DevOps practices and the resultant business value. It was clear that the attendees enjoyed the session, left with a greater understanding of how DevOps practices could benefit their organization, and most importantly, had fun.

Like in the book the Phoenix Project, the attendees are part of a fictional retail company that must rely heavily on IT and ecommerce for marketing and sales success. Also, during the session, and like the Phoenix Project, nearly every IT calamity possible befalls the company, which drastically impacts its on-line sales and causes the company to lose money. Time to put DevOps to work!

Round 1. The attendees are divided up into six groups: Service Desk, Business, Dev Team 1, DevTeam 2, Testing, and Operations. In addition to keeping the “lights running,” the teams must develop new applications and continue to improve existing ones. But after a few IT glitches, things quickly go from bad to worse. It’s total chaos: Ops’ “hair is on fire,” no new software is deployed or patched, customer sat is terrible, and Dev team 1 becomes a huge bottleneck. To make matters worse, sales slow and profits drop.

Round 2. Before diving into the second round the instructor and the students did a retrospective to look at what went wrong and figure out what to do next. It’s determined that better communication, (actually co-location of the two Dev teams), offers better work flow and utilization. The Test group actually starts testing software. The Service Desk pushes back on the Business group and asks for help to better prioritize the incidents. Ops looks at hiring a consultant to fix one of the breaks, and Dev builds a Kanban board to better prioritize and track work. By the end of the round, things have moved from total chaos to a more controlled chaos, with improving sales and profitability.

Round 3. Now things are starting to really improve. The Dev Team posts more information on the Kanban board, resources are shared and not siloed, and automated testing happens. Everyone works together to clear the backlog and software gets deployed. Ops starts implementing problem management (problem solving and study always trumps, “when in doubt, reboot). This reduces the number of incidents. The best news: all teams begin operating under a process framework which allows for continuous integration, or “shift left,” to ensure even more rapid and accurate product development success. Naturally, sales improve and profits rise.

Time flies and suddenly the morning session is over. Getting Dev and Ops under the same roof reinforces shared goals, improves communication and can dramatically reduce the time to get help or needed information.

The end result is a reduction in time to value, especially as lead times shrink and quality improves. What would you rather do? Learning by doing made a big difference with the fictional retail company and it can make a big difference in your organization too.


About dick1stark

I am the President, CEO, and founder of RightStar Systems, a leading IT consultancy and BMC Software Solution Provider and Atlassian Expert Partner. My passion is customer success—whether it’s reducing the cost of service management, improving overall efficiency, or increasing end-user or employee satisfaction. Since founding RightStar in 2003, RightStar has made the INC 5000 list four times. In 2011, RightStar was awarded the prestigious National Capital Business Ethics Award (NCBEA) by the Society of Financial Service Professionals based upon RightStar’s foundation of honesty, ethics, and integrity. And in 2014, RightStar was selected by Forrester Research as one of 13 North American companies profiled in its ITSM Consultancy Wave Report. Finally, in 2016, BMC selected RightStar as its 2015 Supplier of the Year for its consulting partnership and excellence in service delivery. Dick is a graduate of Stanford University and a Project Management Professional (PMP).
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